As the season of giving enters its peak days, many families are looking for meaningful ways to give that extend beyond the borders of their own homes or even their local communities. After all, as messages of peace and goodwill abound, it can be hard not to want that goodwill to spread around the world. But what’s the best way for you and your family to make a global impact? Here are some ideas that may help you put global giving into practice, no matter the level of commitment you’re able to achieve.
Think Locally, Give Globally.
Believe it or not, you may be able to change the world without even leaving your community. There are a number of organizations that can help connect you and your talents to worthy causes, including some that don’t require you to leave the comfort of your own home.
- Catchafire connects professionals who want to volunteer their services with nonprofit organizations and charitable causes. No matter what your particular skills might be – web design, sales, customer service, grant writing – you can search the site and find ways to use your professional talents to help others.
- Help From Home offers “microvolunteering” ideas for everyone, including school-based project ideas for teachers and actions that familes, kids, and seniors can take whenever they have a few moments to spare. Search the causes that inspire you most, choose one of the suggested actions, and you can complete a meaningful act of giving in just a few minutes.
- Nothing But Nets offers a way to connect something many kids (and adults) enjoy with a meaningful cause. Search their site for different ways to dedicate your next sporting event or physical activity challenge to raise money for malaria nets to reduce the spread of disease. That usual Saturday morning soccer game or school basketball tournament could become an opportunity to help families half a world away!
Try using your time around the table together to plan a “Nothing but Nets” event or to choose from one of the “Help From Home” microvolunteering ideas that you can all participate in together. Some of them are so simple, you could make a daily or weekly habit of giving back right from your dinner table!
Make Gift-Giving Count.
Thanks in large part to the internet, it’s easier than ever to use your gift-giving budget to do good.
- For the person who has everything and wants nothing (don’t we all have one of those on our gift lists?), consider a charitable gift in their name. If you’d rather the recipient not know the amount spent on the donation, consider something like a purchase through Heifer International — after all, when have you ever been able to “gift” stoves, irrigation pumps, or goats before? Or if you’re comfortable with the recipient knowing the amount you’ve gifted, but you’d like them to have some input into the charitable cause, try a Just Give gift certificate. You choose the amount, your recipient chooses the organization that receives the donation, and everyone wins.
- Many stores and online shopping sites donate a portion of their proceeds to charitable causes, allowing your gift-giving dollars to do double duty. Shopping online through Amazon Smile or GoodShop can make purchases from big-name retailers more meaningful, while other shop-and-donate opportunities will be more specific to a certain cause or item. For example, ProductRED offers a specialized line of name-brand products, such as iPods, Starbucks gift items, and GAP clothing, that can be purchased to help fight AIDS around the world. And TOMS offers unique footwear and sunglasses in a “one for one” giving arrangement: For each purchase you make, a pair of shoes will be given to a child in need.
To get the whole family involved in gift-giving with a conscience, bring these ideas to the table at your next family dinner. Ask everyone in the family to help choose one or more recipients from your holiday gift list who would appreciate a gift that gives back, and select the gift together so everyone feels like they’re a part of the experience.
Go Big or Go Home.
If you have the time and the budget, voluntourism may be the next big global giving idea for your family. This travel trend blends the traditional vacation with hands-on volunteering opportunities around the world, which can make for a meaningful and memorable family trip. Of course, a commitment like voluntourism is something to be carefully considered based on the interests, abilities, and maturity level of each member of your family — you wouldn’t want to take a five-year-old to a third-world orphanage to help out, or drag your less-than-enthusiastic teen through a travel experience you’ll both look back on with more annoyance than pride.
However, there are a number of options out there for kids and adults of all ages if you’re interested in exploring the possibilities. Try searching sites like GoVoluntouring or Travelanthropist for ideas. If you haven’t got any young kids at home, a great budget-friendly voluntourism opportunity for the 18-and-older set is Worldwide Opportunites on Organic Farms, which essentially allows you to trade your labor for accommodations in some truly beautiful settings.
If voluntourism does appeal to your family, dinnertime is a great opportunity for planning and dreaming! From choosing the experience you’d all like best to setting goals, deciding how to best budget and save for the trip, and dividing up the travel to-do list, there are plenty of family conversations to be had about traveling with a purpose. As your trip gets closer, you might also spend some family dinners learning together about the area you’ll be visiting and the cause you’ll be working for, so everyone in the family feels prepared and excited for their ultimate volunteer experience.